Best of the Fest: Where to Celebrate Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest, the biggest world-wide beer party is spinning into high gear and as with all things beer, the Bay Area calendar is stuffed with traditional and not-so traditional offerings. Although the 1810 royal Bavarian wedding marked the first official Oktoberfest, Germanic beer drinkers had been throwing down massive quantities of suds during this time of year for centuries, in large part to finish off the current year’s stock and clear the barrels for the next. The advent of pasteurization and refrigeration means that modern suds will keep longer, but beer lovers never let technology get in the way of a good party and in fact, around here technology can make it better.
For the next four Fridays Schroeder’s, the oldest and largest German restaurant on the West Coast, will be hosting Oktoberfest with live polka music, their usual hearty German food and classic fest beers on draft. If you want to work on your Chicken Dance moves, lubricate yourself with a 104 ounce glass boot. Use Schroeder’s web site to make a reservation at least two days in advance. 240 Front St., San Francisco.
If you prefer an Oktoberfest with more local flavor, slip across the bay to Oakland’s family-friendly Oaktoberfest on Saturday, October 5. This free festival takes place in Oakland’s Dimond District, which was a turn of the century area for German beer gardens and resorts. In addition to traditional Oktoberfest beer, food and entertainment, there are also non-German food vendors, craft brews and three stages of live music. Oaktoberfest is a non-profit fundraising event, donations go toward community development efforts. Skip some lines by using the event web site to buy tasting tickets. MacArthur Blvd. and Fruitvale Ave, Oakland.
From now till October 20, Schmidt’s Chef Noah Bustos has created a rotating Oktoberfest menu which includes traditional and modern takes of German and Hungarian food. They also have several fest beers on draft and are offering a special on beer flights. Phone in your reservation for parties of eight or more: (415) 401-0200, 2400 Folsom at 20th, San Francisco.
Suppenküche is designed for communal dining and if you don’t have a large group, you’ll likely make friends with your fellow tablemates. For Oktoberfest, both Suppenküche’s open air-beer garden and the restaurant feature an extensive selection of German, Austrian and Belgian brews, including several fest beers on draft. Call for reservations if you have a group of six or more: (415) 252-9289, 525 Laguna St., San Francisco.
Next Saturday and Sunday, October 5 and 6, Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant in Mountain View is co-hosting Mountain View's first Oktoberfest celebration with the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce and Tied House Brewery & Café. The free, family-friendly event is taking place not only in Stein’s restaurant and outdoor beer garden, but is spilling over into a tented area of their parking lot. 895 Villa Street, Mountain View.
Steins has replaced its 31 taps with German beers for the occasion and Executive Chef Colby M. Reade has reworked the menu to better pair his food with the beers. Throughout the weekend there will be live German music with performances by Big Lou’s Accordion (Saturday at 2 p.m.), Joe Smiell Band (Sunday at 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.), and The SF German Band (Sunday at 2 p.m.).
Guests can purchase and enjoy their beers in a liter stein from one of the represented beer houses. Half-liter glassware will also be available. Steins will also be selling a limited quantity of its own branded 1-liter steins. And because this is happening in Silicon Valley, you can use PayPal to pay for everything at the fest.
Leopold’s has a solid menu and a cozy ambience; perfect for a couple or small group. For Oktoberfest, Leopold’s is featuring rotating dinner specials paired with fest beers on draft. 2400 Polk Street, San Francisco.
You may not have known there was a German-American Chamber of Commerce (GACC) in the area, but they do throw a good party. Drop into Fort Mason on Thursday, October 17 for an evening of traditional German beer and food provided by Alameda’s Speisekammer Restaurant. The event will feature the music of Bayern Maiden, who, though decked out in traditional dirndls and lederhosen, blast out the out rock and pop tunes in addition to the classic Oktoberfest numbers. Get tickets at the website. Fort Mason Center, San Francisco.
For a quiet neighborhood Oktoberfest, no food, no brass bands, just a few classic German drafts, check out the legendary hospitality in this snug San Francisco dive. 4701 Geary Blvd, San Francisco.